After closing because of the second COVID-19 wave last fall, Retreat at the Currency Exchange Cafe in Washington Park, 305 E. Garfield Blvd., has reopened with a continuing focus on serving South Side creatives.
Programming manager Baredu Ahmed is an electronic musician and flautist who has worked with the Kennedy Center in Washington and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. When the pandemic hit, Rebuild Foundation head Theaster Gates contacted her to see if she would be interested in changing the Currency Exchange towards being a working space for artists, an occupation particularly hit hard by the crisis.
Baredu said they could use it as a co-working or entrepreneurial space. There is space for for meetings in the basement. Musicians can hold live events at the cafe. There are plenty of desks where people can work, and the WiFi is free.
There may also be guest chefs to try out the Currency Cafe's commercial kitchen during happy hours. Currently, takeaway fare is available alongside coffee, tea and a full bar.
Asked if Retreat will be a pop-up or a more long-term operation at the Currency Exchange Cafe, she said a pop-up for a year "with the option to extend it if things go really well and it seems like there's the demand for the services that we offer." Currency Exchange residencies typically last a year, but this one may be extended because of the pandemic's interruption.
Retreat is open Tuesday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.